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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2006

Activity and heart rate in semi-domesticated reindeer during adaptation to emergency feeding

Nilsson A, Ahman B, Norberg H, Redbo I, Eloranta E, Olsson K


Although reindeer are well adapted to limited food resources during winter, semi-domesticated reindeer are regularly fed when snow conditions are bad in order to prevent starvation. Feeding sometimes results in health problems and loss of animals. This study was made to assess if activity pattern in reindeer could be used as a tool for the reindeer herder in early detection of animals that are not adapting to feeding. The frequency of 10 behavioural categories was recorded in five groups of penned, eight-month-old, female semi-domesticated reindeer. Three reindeer per group were fitted with heart rate monitors. Lying was the most frequent behaviour, whilst there were few cases of agonistic behaviour. Heart rate varied during the day, with peaks during feeding and low heart rates in the early morning. Restricted feed intake resulted in more locomotion and seeking but less ruminating compared to feeding ad libitum. This was followed by a generally lower heart rate in reindeer in the restricted groups compared to controls. Subsequent feeding with different combinations of lichens, silage and pellets ad libitum resulted initially in significantly more of the animals lying curled up, compared to controls, combined with increased heart rates. As the experiment continued the general activity pattern, as well as the heart rate, gradually became more similar in all groups. Lying curled was the behavioural indicator most consistently affected by feed deprivation and adaptation to feeding and may thus be a useful indicator to distinguish individual reindeer that are not adjusting to feeding. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved



Published in

Physiology and Behavior
2006, volume: 88, number: 1-2, pages: 116-123

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Unit of Reindeer Husbandry
Nilsson, Anna
Olsson, K
Eloranta, E
Norberg, H
Redbo, I
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Nutrition and Management

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science
Veterinary Science

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